After the parliamentary elections held last year, Georgia has changed. The changes mostly concern the political life of the country. Pro-presidential party "Single national movement" has lost its weight in the parliament, while the opposition coalition "Georgian dream" has got an opportunity to form the government. Right after the elections, several high-ranked officials appointed by President Mikheil Saakashvili were prosecuted. Meanwhile, "dreamers" headed by Premier Bidzina Ivanishvili seek to introduce changes to the Constitution, in particular to limit presidential powers.

They have already achieved certain results. According to the Constitution, the President has a right to dismiss the parliament after six months since its election. Fearing that Saakashvili might get rid of the opposition parliament already in April, "Georgian dream" submitted and approved on Monday, March 25, the amendments to the Constitution, according to which the President no longer can appoint the Cabinet after parliament's dismissal or government's resignation. However, Saakashvili has assured his opponents he had no intentions to use this right and is ready to support the constitutional initiatives of "dreamers".

In an interview with ForUm, Nika Chitadze, Georgian political scientists and head of the Georgian International Security Research Centre, spoke about political relations within the parliament and possible compromise between the power centers, as well as about future relations between Tbilisi and Moscow.

- After the victory of the "Georgian dream" coalition, the prosecutor's office and law enforcements pressed charges against more than 20 former high-ranked officials, including ministers. New Premier and his government are accused of political persecutions of opponents, but "dreamers" deny the accusations, and Ivanishvili assures that it is a restoration of justice. What is really going on?

- The government of Ivanishvili tries to discredit the former authorities because it cannot fulfill the promises made during the election campaign. The opposition spoke about improvements in social sphere, reduction of prices and creation of one-billion-dollar fund for development of agriculture. None of this has been made yet. Ivanishvili is a billionaire, and many Georgians thought that after coming to power he would give everyone at least a million.

As for accusations of persecution, the European parliament has already made its point. In particular, 23 European MPs have called the Premier to deal with pressure on local governments and courts.
- How does this pressure manifest itself?

- Well, for example, heads of regional state administrations are supposed to be elected, meaning appointed by the people. However, after the victory of the "Georgian dream" coalition, many local chairmen were forced to resign, but no elections were appointed. Instead, the authorities appointed 'proper' candidates - members of the coalition.

- There is also an ongoing scandal with acting mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava. According to some reports, he faces up to 23 years of imprisonment...

- Gigi Uglava is a representative of the "National movement", pro-presidential party. He had been accused of corruption and money laundering, but no concrete proofs were found. The prosecution requested that bail be set at one million laris (over $600,000), Ugulava's suspension from office and a ban on travel abroad. The judge found no grounds for any of the proposed measures against Ugulava, and the new authorities declared the courts of the country were under Saakashvili's control. "Georgian dream" put forward an initiative to replace the whole panel of judges in the Council of justice. The Venice Commission expressed its doubts about the decision and recommended to abandon the idea.

The problem is that accusing former officials, the current authorities bring fire on themselves as well. For example, former interior minister Bacho Akhalaia was accused of allegedly insulting the subordinates. At the same time, vice president of the police academy and president of Georgian National Wrestling Federation Luka Kurtanidze beats up the vice president of the same Federation, dismisses several coaches, etc., but goes unpunished just because he is a member of the "Georgian dream".

- At the beginning of March, the President and Premier finally had a meeting. Does it mean that the authorities are building a consensus?

- Both parties have reasons to come to understanding. Premier is interested in amendments to the Constitution, while the President wants the Premier to restrain from political persecution. This is a dialogue about compromises.

- Some Georgian MPs propose to introduce amendments to the Constitution, according to which the President is elected not by the people, but by the parliament. Does such initiative have any chances to pass through?

- I think this proposition will remain a proposition: the President will be elected through the national election as ever, but his powers will be limited, while the powers of the Premier will be broadened.

- Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights says that Russia may resume import of Georgia wine soon, and Ivanishvili promises that Georgia will participate in the Olympic games of 2014 in Sochi. Does it mean Moscow and Tbilisi finally break the ice in relations?

- The relations can be fully restored only when Russia withdraws the recognition of independence of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. The fact that Putin recently held a meeting with Alexander Ankvab, president of self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia, proves that Russia has no intentions to withdraw its decision. With such pace, it will be impossible to restore relations, not now, not in 2020. As for economic and cultural relations, they will develop because both countries are interested in it.

- In March, the government of Georgia hired two lobbying companies to promote country's integration in the EU and NATO. Don't Georgians dispute the decision, as the companies will be paid from the state budget?

- The Georgian people has always stood for the idea of joining the EU and NATO, and the population's mood has not changed. We do support European integration, the question is whether we can think like Europeans.

- Ukrainian politicians cite Georgia as an example of reformation. But have all of your reforms proved effective and been supported by the population?

- The World Bank called Georgia the first reformist on the post-soviet space. The majority of citizens supported the fight against corruption and criminality, development of tourism sphere and implementation of social program, though some people were not happy with reformation of state institutions, when the decision was made to cut personnel.

The population waits for more changes, but the new authorities do not offer any. In fact, reforms have stalled. For example, the construction of many infrastructure objects have been suspended. The only sphere where certain improvements can be observed is medicine. Medical insurance become more popular among people, and the new authorities promise to make the situation even better.  Well, the time will show.

- In January, Georgian authorities announced mass amnesty. Has the decision influenced the level of crimes?

- For the past five-six years we have not heard about thefts or pocket picking, as all thieves were in jails. However, recently one of the students reported theft of her purse in a bus. In winter, we had several bank robberies right in the center of Tbilisi. Nevertheless, I cannot say the situation has aggravated drastically. It is still safe to walk the streets even at night.

- Georgia is Stalin's motherland, and on March 5 there was the latest anniversary of his death. Did Georgian mass media cover the event? How do Georgians treat Stalin nowadays?

- The majority of people are not in sympathy with him. There used to be Stalin's party under the regime of Eduard Shevardnadze, but I haven't heard about it for a long time. I also have not seen or read any articles dedicated to him.

Some people of older generation are proud of the fact the USSR secretary general was Georgian and still honor him in heart even despite the fact that he was a tyrant. These people cannot be over-persuaded, but there is no point in doing so anyway.  

Alina Yeremeyeva


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